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Car & Truck Trends: Faster, More Powerful, Bigger, Heavier, and More Fuel-Efficient

Americans like big, fast, powerful equipment more than ever. Four decades of horsepower, MPG, 0-60 acceleration, size, and weight.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The EPA Automotive Trends Report for 2022 was released today, with final data for the 2021 model year and preliminary data for the 2022 model year. It boils down to this: faster, more powerful, more fuel-efficient, heavier, and bigger (and they’re a lot more expensive because that’s where the money is, laughing out loud and laughing out louder).

The EPA collected this data from automakers for vehicles produced for the US market. The report divides vehicles into five basic types: sedan, crossover (a smaller SUV on a sedan chassis, what the report calls “car SUV”), minivan, pickup, and “truck SUV” (SUV that by weight or by chassis is closer to a truck than a car).

More efficient: MPG jumps by most in 10 years.

Overall miles per gallon increased by 0.9 MPG, to a record of 26.4 MPG in 2022, the biggest year-over-year increase in 10 years (red line). Part of it was the improvement in fuel efficiency of each vehicle, and part of it was a shift in the mix in the 2022 model year to fuel-efficient models and powertrains, and to EVs, in response to the surge in the price of gasoline late last year and earlier this year. Sedans averaged 33.7 mpg (green) and pickups 20.1 mpg (black).

Horsepower: You can never have too much power?

Overall average horsepower in the 2022 model year, based on the mix it was produced and sold in the US, jumped to a record 272 hp, from 252 hp in the prior model year. This 18.9 hp increase was the biggest ever increase from one model year to the next.

Since 1980, average horsepower has increased by 167%, from 102 hp in 1980 (remember those dogs, when automakers were struggling to implement emission controls, catalytic converters, and what not, that all degraded the power output of the engines at the time?). Horsepower started rising again with fuel injection and electronic engine management systems that were become more common in the mid-1980s.

In terms of horsepower, pickups are king of the hill. The first model year that the average of the mix of pickups went over 300 hp was 2011. For the model year 2022, the average was 339 hp. When the 600 hp EV pickups are being produced in larger numbers, they will move those figures into the stratosphere.

The average horsepower of sedans and crossovers has shot up over the past two years, from 205 hp in 2019 to 214 hp in 2021, and to 243 hp in 2022, in part because EVs have taken off, and they have prodigious amounts of power. For the 2022 model year, over 7% of all vehicles are EVs, according to estimates in the report, and most of them were sedans and crossovers, and within these types of vehicles, the EV share was much larger.

Performance by Automaker. No figures are yet available for the 2022 model year, but today’s report released the final figures for the 2021 model year, in terms of weighted average horsepower and 0-60 times (in seconds) by automaker.

Automaker HP 0 – 60 (sec.)
Tesla 376 4.8
BMW 299 6.3
Mercedes 304 6.6
Ford 299 6.9
Stellantis 304 7.1
VW 269 7.2
GM 288 7.5
Other 270 7.7
All automakers 253 7.7
Honda 212 7.8
Toyota 224 7.8
Kia 190 8.5
Hyundai 194 8.6
Mazda 197 8.8
Nissan 195 9.0
Subaru 195 9.1

Bigger, of course.

The footprint overall for the model year 2022 rose to 51.7 square feet per vehicle, a record in the EPA data going back to 2008. Every vehicle type got bigger because Americans love big equipment. The world produces plenty of small and tiny vehicles, and some are available in the US, but their sales are just a flyspeck – no matter how hard automakers are trying – compared to the big equipment.

The biggest equipment of all are pickups. Their footprint rose to 65.9 square feet, from 62 square feet in 2008. Sedans and crossovers average out about the same and are at the low-end of the scale with 47.2 square feet for sedans, and just a tad more for crossovers, but they have gotten larger too:

Weight: Power, size, and luxury weigh something.

More power, 10-speed transmissions, bigger vehicles, and more loaded vehicles, the shift over the years from sedans to pickups and “truck SUVs”… well, this stuff has a weight. Overall vehicle weight (which the report defines as weight of the empty vehicle plus 300 lbs) rose to 4,329 lbs.

There is a broad range of weight within each model, depending on equipment and configuration. For example (using “curb weight” provided by the manufacturer):

  • Ford F-series pickup ranges from 4,021 lbs for a base F-150 regular cab, to 5,800 lbs for an F-150 Raptor, to 7,500 lbs for an F-250 with a diesel.
  • Tesla Model 3 ranges from 3,560 lbs for the base version, to 4,180 lbs for the long-range dual-motor all-wheel drive version.

The EPA data here is the average by vehicle type based on the model-year mix produced for delivery in the US. For the 2022 model year, the average weight overall (red line) rose to record 4,329 lbs. For pickups, it rose to 5,239 lbs (black line). For sedans, it rose to 3,628 lbs (green line):

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